ICT strategy plagiarism scandal

The Eastern Cape provincial government has withdrawn its ICT strategy plan after it was discovered that it was plagiarised from an international government document.

The Daily Dispatch reported that parts of the “Provincial Digital Transformation Framework and Strategy Plan 2020 – 2025” were copied nearly word-for-word from a 2015 document.

The digital transformation plan, which was signed by Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane and approved by the provincial cabinet, was plagiarised from an ICT strategy document penned by Brendan Howlin five years ago.

Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha confirmed the plagiarism and promised that action will be taken against those responsible.

“The approval of the Eastern Cape provincial government’s ICT strategy by the executive council has been withdrawn following confirmation that parts of the strategy document from the foreword to other sections of the document were plagiarised,” he said.

“The only part of the document that was not plagiarised was the implementation plan, projects to be implemented and the location of the projects to be implemented as part of the strategy.”

He said when Mabuyane became aware of the plagiarism he ordered an investigation to look into the matter and circumstances that led to the plagiarising of contents of another document.

“When plagiarism was confirmed by the investigation, at the instruction of Premier Mabuyane, the strategy document was withdrawn from all government institutions where it was submitted as required by the operational and reporting systems of government.”

He added that disciplinary action will be taken against the people who plagiarised the document “because plagiarism is an act of misconduct and dishonesty”.

Previously happened with LLU plan

This is not the first time that governmental ICT documents were plagiarised and put forward as an original plan.

Large parts of South Africa’s Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) report were lifted from a 2001 European Commission document without assigning credit.

The report was commissioned by the late communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri to guide the country’s decisions and policies related to local loop unbundling.

ITWeb revealed that the case studies in the report “are the same as those in the LLU report developed six years ago for the European Commission”.

“It’s straight plagiarism. They haven’t even bothered to update the case studies, despite the fact that these are now six years old,” ITWeb quoted a source as saying.

LLU committee chairman Tshilidzi Marwala acknowledged that the case study material was copied entirely from the 2001 European Commission document without any credit.

Instead of withdrawing the document, however, he dismissed it as a “minor” problem which does not undermine the report and the recommendations in the report.

Marwala, who is now the vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, called it “an honest mistake” which was fixed as soon as they became aware of it.

Local loop unbundling ultimately did not happen in South Africa, which Marwala described as “disappointing”.

Now read: LLU: a lost opportunity

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ICT strategy plagiarism scandal